Thursday, November 8, 2012

WORLD WAR III: Countdown to Armageddon - Iranian Jets Fire on American Drone in the Persian Gulf, as Tehran Plans to Hold "Massive" Air Defense Drills Over Weekend!

November 8, 2012 - PENTAGON, UNITED STATES - Two Iranian Su-25 fighter jets fired on an unarmed U.S. Air Force Predator drone in the Persian Gulf last week, CNN has learned.  The incident raises fresh concerns within the Obama administration about Iranian military aggression in crucial Gulf oil shipping lanes. 

United States drone.
The drone was in international airspace east of Kuwait, U.S. officials said, adding it was engaged in routine maritime surveillance.  Although the drone was not hit, the Pentagon is concerned.  Two U.S. officials explained the jets were part of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps force, which has been more confrontational than regular Iranian military forces.  The Obama administration did not disclose the incident, which occurred just days before the presidential election on November 1, but three senior officials confirmed the details to CNN.  The officials declined to be identified because of sensitive intelligence matters surrounding the matter.  The drone's still and video cameras captured the incident showing two SU-25s approaching the Predator and firing its onboard guns. 

The Iranian pilots continued to fire shots that went beneath the Predator but were never successful in hitting it, according to the officials.  U.S. military intelligence analysts are still not sure if the Iranian pilots simply were unable to hit the drone due to lack of combat skill, or whether they deliberately were missing and had no intention of bringing down the drone. But as one of the officials said, "it doesn't matter, they fired on us."  The official confirmed the United States protested the incident but has not heard back from Iran. Iran has, at times, been confrontational in the region.  In January, the U.S. military and coast guard had close encounters with Iranian Navy vessels which approached at high speeds and exhibited provocative behavior.
WATCH: Iranian jets fire on U.S. drone.

 Meanwhile, Iran's official news agency says the country's military will hold "massive" air defense maneuvers in the east, starting this weekend. 

In this photo released by the semi-official Iranian Fars News Agency, an abandoned war ship, being used as a
target, is burning during Revolutionary Guard's maneuver in the Persian Gulf, Iran, Thursday, April 22, 2010.
Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard on Thursday started large-scale war games in the Persian Gulf and the strategic
Strait of Hormuz, state television reported. Iran has been holding military maneuvers in the gulf and the Strait
of Hormuz annually since 2006 to show off its military capabilities. (AP Photo/Fars News Agency,Mehdi Marizad)
TEHRAN, IRAN - Gen. Farzad Esmaili, head of Iran's air defense headquarters, says the drill will include Iranian jet fighters, drones, air defense systems and about 8,000 troops.  Esmaili is quoted by the official IRNA news agency on Thursday as saying that the area of the war games will cover nearly the entire eastern half of Iran. The exercise is to start on Saturday and last seven days.  The maneuvers come amid escalating tensions between Iran and the West over Tehran's suspect nuclear program, which the West fears is a cover for a pursuit of nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge, saying the program is for peaceful purposes only. - FOX News.

MAJOR DISASTER IMPACT: Guatemala Death Toll Rises - 52 People Dead and Hundreds Missing, Amid Rubble, Landslides and Devastation!

November 8, 2012 - GUATEMALA - At least 52 dead, and dozens still missing after Guatemala's biggest earthquake in more than three decades.  The 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit off the country's Pacific coast on Wednesday, leaving many villagers near the Mexican border trapped under rubble, as homes and cars were crushed.  Subsequent landslides have blocked roads, making both evacuation and rescue efforts more difficult. 

Guatemala quake – witnesses reported seeing people buried in some of the 30 houses
that collapsed in the town of San Marcos, near Mexico. Photograph: EPA
"It's very sad to meet people here who are waiting to find their families who are still buried," said President Otto Perez in San Marcos, the mountainous region most affected.  "It's really a tragedy and we will do all we can to help the families that are suffering."  Al Jazeera's Rachel Levin, reporting from San Marcos, said a hill had collapsed the day before on a group of seven people, including a five-year-old child.  "We have seen several collapsed homes, and people there are staying with neighbours. We know that supplies are on their way to the most affected areas," she said. "It has been traumatic, people here are still in a state of shock."  Hitting 42km below the surface, it was the strongest earthquake to strike the Central American nation since 1976.

In San Cristobal Cucho, in San Marcos state, all but one of an 11-member family died, buried under rubble, volunteer fireman Ovidio Fuentes told local radio. Only the 17-year-old son survived.  More than 16,000 emergency rations packs have been distributed by more than 2,000 soldiers mobilised to assist relief efforts. At least 73,000 people remain without electricity.  The funerals of all those killed in the impoverished region will be paid for by the government, said Perez. But despite overtures made by officials, some in the devastated area requested improvements be made to facilities there.  "We ask the president to improve conditions at the hospital," said Ingrid Lopez, whose 72-year-old aunt had her legs crushed by a falling wall. "There isn't enough staff."  Office workers evacuated their buildings in Guatemala City, 160km from the quake's epicentre, but soon returned to work.  "It was really big. I felt quite nauseous," said 32-year-old secretary Vanessa Castillo.  Building janitor Jorge Gamboa said: "I was in the bathroom. When I came out the office was empty and I thought, what's happening? They didn't even say goodbye."  The state capital of San Marcos was among the worst-hit cities. Many of the colourful adobe buildings in the 10-square-mile centre of San Marcos were either cracked or reduced to rubble, including the police station and the courthouse. The earthquake left a large gash in one of the streets, and hundreds of frightened villagers stood in the open, refusing to go back inside.  More than 300 people, including firefighters, policemen and villagers, tried to dig through a half ton of sand at a quarry in the commercial centre in a desperate attempt to rescue seven people believed buried alive.  Damage to San Marcos' prison has forced authorities to transfer 101 inmates to another jail.  "We'd rather stay here and reconstruct the jail than be displaced," said inmate Benjamin Tomas Gomez. "That will be hard for our families,''  The quake was felt in El Salvador and more than 1,200km away in Mexico City, where some people also fled offices and homes. - Al Jazeera.

WATCH: Dozens killed in Guatemala earthquake.

PLANETARY TREMORS: 5.1 Quake Hits Northwestern Iran - Injuring 50!

November 8, 2012 - VARZAGAN, IRAN -  A moderate earthquake shook northwestern Iran Wednesday near the borders with Armenia and Azerbaijan, injuring at least 50 people, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported. It comes just three months after a larger quake killed more than 300 people in the same region.

The 5.1-magnitude earthquake at 09:56 a.m. local time (0626 GMT) was centered in northwestern Iran about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the city of Varzaghan, the capital of East Azerbaijan Province. It struck about 19 kilometers (11.8 miles) deep, making it a shallow earthquake, according to Iran's Seismological Center. The semi-official Fars News Agency said the tremors caused damage and injured at least 50 people, many of whom were suffering from hand and foot fractures. Some of the victims also suffered more serious injures and were rushed to an area hospital by rescue workers, the report said.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS), which measured the strength of the earthquake at a body wave magnitude of 5.5, said some 16,000 people near the epicenter could have perceived moderate tremors while as many as 2.6 million may have felt light to moderate shaking. Earthquakes, even those which have a low or moderate magnitude, often cause heavy damage and large numbers of casualties in certain parts of the country due to poor construction. Tremors which strike during the night are especially deadly when most residents are sleeping. Less than three months ago, at least 306 people were killed and more than 3,000 were injured when a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck about 17 kilometers (10 miles) from the city of Ahar in East Azerbaijan Province. It was estimated that more than 5,000 buildings were seriously damaged,

And in December 2010, at least seven people were killed and hundreds more were injured when a strong 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck 16 kilometers (9.9 miles) from the town of Hosein abad in Kerman Province, located in southeastern Iran. It followed a 5.9-magnitude earthquake in August 2010 which killed two young children. Before that, in November 2009, a light 4.9-magnitude earthquake struck the southern Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas, injuring more than 700 people. In December 2003, around 31,000 people were killed and more than 30,000 others were injured when a strong 6.6-magnitude earthquake struck near Bam. It left the area devastated with 85 percent of buildings damaged or destroyed in the city. - MINEWS.

PARADISE LOST: The Global Economic Contagion - Imminent Default For Jamaica, Bond Yields Jump to Nine-Month High, the Region's Slowest Economic Growth, "Muddling Through With Virtually No Growth"!

November 8, 2012 - KINGSTON, JAMAICA - Jamaica’s borrowing costs are surging to the highest level in nine months after defaults by two Caribbean neighbors combine with the region’s slowest economic growth prospects to undermine investor confidence.  Yields on dollar bonds due in 2019 from the island nation, which restructured $7.8 billion of bonds almost three years ago, reached 8.31 percent on Oct. 31, the highest since February, and traded at 8.25 percent yesterday. Jamaican notes lost 0.9 percent in October, the worst performance among 15 Central American and Caribbean nations, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. Bonds sold by Pakistan that carry the same B- rating from Standard & Poor’s returned 6.3 percent. While Jamaican yields are below the 13 percent level reached before its 2010 restructuring, some investors are concerned that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller’s government will struggle with debt payments following Belize and Grenada’s defaults this year, said Stuart Culverhouse, the chief economist at Exotix Ltd. in London. Jamaica’s economy is forecast to expand 0.9 percent this year and 1.5 percent in 2017, the slowest pace in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the International Monetary Fund. Central bank reserves fell by more than half since April 2011 to $1.1 billion in October.  “How much longer can Jamaica muddle through this with virtually no growth?” said Franco Uccelli, a senior economist for Central America and the Caribbean at JPMorgan in Miami. He said that while he doesn’t forecast a default, investors “are starting to wonder if after Belize, Jamaica could be next.”

Expansion for the $14.5 billion economy is expected to remain weak as Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller vows
to cut spending to lower debt and a global slowdown damps mining exports, Jamaica’s central bank said Aug. 24. Photographer: Evaristo SA/AFP/Getty Images
The prime minister’s office directed questions to the Finance Ministry. Officials at the Finance Ministry didn’t respond to repeated phone messages and e-mailed requests for comment by Bloomberg News.  Expansion for the $14.5 billion economy is expected to remain weak as Simpson Miller vows to cut spending to lower debt and a global slowdown damps mining exports, Jamaica’s central bank said Aug. 24. That was before Hurricane Sandy caused at least 5 billion Jamaican dollars ($55 million) in damages last month before it headed to the U.S., though it largely spared resorts along the northern coast.  “Even before the hurricane we faced serious economic challenges,” Simpson Miller said Oct. 30. “This has been made worse by the passage of Hurricane Sandy.”  Bond investors are hesitant about the region as tourism- dependent economies are “one hurricane away from a plunge in GDP,” Marcela Meirelles, a Latin American strategist at TCW in Los Angeles, said in an interview.  Jamaica is one of at least five Caribbean island nations to restructure its debt since 2004. Grenada missed a Sept. 15 payment on $193 million of bonds before paying investors within a 30-day grace period. Belize is in talks with creditors who hold almost $300 million of bonds, its second restructuring in five years, after missing a $23 million payment in August and then paying half that amount a month later.  Jamaica swapped $7.8 billion of local bonds for securities with longer maturities and lower interest rates in 2010, when its debt burden exceeded 120 percent of gross domestic product. Debt surged to 140 percent of GDP in June after Jamaica failed to meet its budget targets, according to the IMF.  Remittances to Jamaica fell 2.6 percent to $170 million in August from a year earlier, the second monthly decline, according to the central bank. While tourism is likely to experience growth this year, the economy “remained flat” last quarter after contracting 0.1 percent in the first three months of 2012, the bank said in an Oct. 31 report. It blamed the decline on a disruption of mining operations and weak demand for aluminum.

The government is “committed to a policy of fiscal prudence and debt sustainability over the medium-term,” central bank Governor Brian Wynter said in a Sept. 11 speech in Kingston. The bank said new taxes on goods and services such as phone calls will help reduce the budget deficit to 3.8 percent of GDP from 6.2 percent last year.  Concern that Jamaica will restructure its debt again are overblown, said Boris Segura, Latin America analyst at Nomura Holdings Inc.  “Jamaica has been the poster boy for imminent default for years now, but they don’t default,” Segura said in a phone interview. “The country has a weak ability to pay but strong willingness to pay.” The spread between Jamaica’s 2019 bonds and 2018 notes sold by the Dominican Republic, the Caribbean’s largest economy, has increased to 4.42 percentage points, the widest since 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. While both countries are seeking new accords with the IMF after failing to rein in spending, investors see Jamaica as the greater risk because of its high ratio of debt to GDP, said Culverhouse.  “What will matter in the near term is getting an IMF agreement sorted out and watching fiscal performance,” Culverhouse, who has a “hold” rating on Jamaican bonds, said in a phone interview. “If performance starts to wane, the room for maneuver is pretty limited and that might raise more concerns.” - Bloomberg.

EXTREME WEATHER: Northeast Storm Slams America - Record Snowfall, Over 200,000 Power Outages, Complicates Sandy Cleanup!

November 8, 2012 - UNITED STATES - Residents across the Northeast woke up Thursday to more than 200,000 new power outages and record early snow from a nor'easter that struck just 10 days after Superstorm Sandy battered the region.  "We're right back to the same situation," Kirk Walker of Hackensack, N.J., told after power went out for the third time at his home since Sandy struck.

A snowstorm hits the Northeast as residents are still struggling to pick up the pieces after Superstorm Sandy.
"They said it was gonna be a rough winter," Walker added. "Sign of things to come, I guess."  In New Jersey alone, 167,000 homes and businesses lost power overnight, Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday. "This sets us back about a day" in terms of getting all power restored, he added. The storm boasted wind gusts of more than 50 mph and dropped heavy snow on already-weakened tree limbs, leading to the new outages. Long Island saw some 50,000 customers lose power, reported.  With the new outages, some 700,000 customers are without power across the Northeast. Record snowfall totals were recorded across the area:  New York’s Central Park received 4.4 inches of snow on Wednesday -- a record for a Nov. 7 and the earliest 4-inch total in the park's history, reported. By Thursday morning the total had reached 4.7 inches.  A record snowfall of 2 inches was set at Newark, N.J., breaking the old record of a trace amount set in 1981. Bridgeport, Conn., received 3.5 inches of snow, beating the Nov. 7 record of 2 inches set in 1953. Some areas inland got 12 to 13 inches of snow.  "This is a classic nor'easter," NBC meteorologist Al Roker said on TODAY, "just very early."

Conditions were still miserable Thursday morning. In New York City, winds were around 25 mph and it was 36 degrees with showers forecast before sunny skies on Friday.  In New Jersey, parts of which saw 9 inches of snow, police said ice and snow contributed to the deaths of two people in a car whose driver was speeding, NBCPhiladelphia reported.  Two people also died in Connecticut in traffic accidents attributed to snow, The Associated Press reported. Throughout the region, people wore coats indoors as they endured yet another night without heat.  "I thought I was lucky when power was restored last Thursday, but last night it went out again," said Michael Platt, an electrician from Toms River, N.J., who estimated a foot of snow fell in his area. "The kids have been home for nearly two weeks and I'm not working, and when I'm not working I'm not making any money. This hasn't been easy."   "Can you believe this? Enough is enough," added Cindy Casey, whose Belle Harbor home one block from the beach in the Rockaways was swamped by Sandy, as she looked out at the snow blanketing the neighborhood devastated by flooding and fire.   Some of those who had weathered Sandy told they felt like a cruel joke was being played on them. "Kind of laughing about it at this point," said Danny Arnedos, of Oyster Bay, Long Island. "To go from a hurricane to a nor'easter and driving in the snow in 10 days is pretty unbelievable."  "I am waiting for the locusts and pestilence next," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Wednesday.  The National Weather Service forecast that the storm will affect New England on Thursday before heading out to sea. - NBC.

WATCH: Northeast Storm Complicates Sandy Cleanup!

WATCH: Northeast Storm Slams America - Record Snow; 200,000 Power Outages!

MASS BIRD DIE-OFF: Waterbird Experts Are Stunned by the Mysterious Death of Seagulls on Lake Neangar in Australia?!

November 8, 2012 - AUSTRALIA - Waterbird experts are unsure why so many birds are dying on Lake Neangar.  Council workers were called out to the Eaglehawk lake yesterday to clean up a collection of dead seagulls on an island in the middle of the lake. 

A council worker picks up the dead seagull carcasses.
Bendigo resident Donna Pollard reported the incident to the City of Greater Bendigo after she discovered dozens of dead birds on a walk around the area.  Ms Pollard said she was concerned the dead wildlife would contaminate the water.  “The smell was terrible and it just looked so awful,” she said.  Council director of presentation and assets Darren Fuzzard confirmed the council removed a large number of dead seagulls from Lake Neangar yesterday.  He said the council was unaware of what caused the death of the birds.  “Seagulls are wild birds and unfortunately we don’t know why this has occurred,” he said.  “However if any member of the public has any further information about the fate of the birds we would appreciate them making contact with the council.” 

He said recent testing had not shown any adverse water quality issues at the lake.   Wildlife Rescue and Information Network (WRIN) waterbird expert Lyn Waller said she could only speculate on why so many birds died yesterday.  “It could be overpopulation,” she said. “It is breeding season so it is a vicious time of year.   “They are all nested on such a small area so they will attack each other. But why exactly they did this yesterday, specifically, we just don’t know.”  Ms Waller urged anyone who finds a sick, injured or orphaned animal to contact WRIN on 0419356133. - Bendigo Advertiser.

SOLAR WATCH: The Sun Comes Alive - Long Duration Eruption of M-Class Solar Flare, Large Coronal Mass Ejection, Not Earth-Directed! UPDATE: Farside Eruption and CME!

November 8, 2012 - SUN - A Long Duration (LDE) eruption from a new active region rotating the north-eastern limb at  this morning. A very large Coronal Mass Ejection(CME) was observed leaving the sun. The CME is not earth directed. This active Region will be numbered in the next 12 hours.

M-CLASS SOLAR FLARE: The week-long spell of solar quiet was broken this morning, Nov. 8th, when a new sunspot unleashed an M1.7-class flare. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the extreme UV flash. Because of the blast site's location on the sun's northeastern limb, Earth was not in the line of fire. It will take about a week for this new active region to turn squarely toward our planet. Stay tuned for updates as the chance of geoeffective flares increases in the days ahead. - Spaceweather.
M1.7 SOLAR FLARE: Seemingly out of nowhere, a new sunspot rotating into view produced a moderate M1.7 Solar Flare at 02:23 UTC early Thursday morning. This new region should be numbered 1611 within the next 24 hours. CME UPDATE: The solar flare did generate a bright Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). Because the sunspot is located close to the limb, the plasma cloud was directed to the east and away from Earth.

ALERT: Type II Radio Emission
Begin Time: 2012 Nov 08 0220 UTC
Estimated Velocity: 784 km/s
Description: Type II emissions occur in association with eruptions on the sun and typically indicate a coronal mass ejection is associated with a flare event. - Solar Ham.
WATCH: M1.7 Solar Flare - November 8, 2012.

UPDATE: Farside Eruption and CME!

An eruption near old region 1598 located on the farside of the Sun took place on 11/8/2012. A bright CME is visible in the latest STEREO Ahead COR2 imagery. Because this was a farsided event, it will have no impact on Earth. Video by STEREO Ahead and STEREO Ahead COR2.

WATCH: Farside Eruption and CME.

MASS BIRD DIE-OFF: Over 500 Pigeons Mysteriously Drop Dead in Bihar Village, India?!

November 8, 2012 - PATNA, INDIA - More than five hundred pigeons suddenly dropped dead at a village in Bihar's Bhagalpur district over the last four days, causing residents, some of them pigeon-keepers, to fear that something was amiss.

File image.
District officials are still to visit the site and conduct an inquiry.  Over 500 pigeons died mysteriously in Bath village near Sultanganj in Bhagalpur, about 250 km from the state capital.  "We were shocked, and we cannot understand why it happened," Subodh Kumar Singh, a keeper of pigeons who lost 250 birds in two days, said.  Another pigeon keeper, Mohan Singh, said: "We need some manner of inquiry into this.

Why did such a large number of pigeons drop dead in a matter of days?"  Other pigeon keepers like Subhit Singh, Radhe Singh and Bhumeshwar Singh said the government ought to investigate the pigeon deaths.  Alok Mankar, a veterinarian, said that the cause for the birds' death may have been technical problems in the radiation machine of mobile phone towers. He added, however, that he was only speculating, and that only an investigation could get to the root of the problem. Pigeons are valued as pets, and there is a thriving market for them.

THE ELECTRIC UNIVERSE: Monumental Changes in the Milky Way Galaxy - Researchers Have Detected the Brightest Flare Ever Seen From the Black Hole at the Centre of Our Galaxy!

November 8, 2012 - NASA - Researchers have observed the brightest flare-up yet seen from the black hole at the heart of our Milky Way galaxy.  As supermassive black holes go, Sagittarius A* is relatively quiet, giving off roughly as much energy as the sun - in spite of the fact it is some 4billion times as big.  About once a day, however, it emits a burst of light - a phenomenon scientists have been keen to investigate to get a better understanding of how black holes evolve. 

Supermassive: This false-color image shows the central region of our Milky Way Galaxy as seen by
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, with a flare from the Sagittarius A* black hole visible
as a bright, point-like source at the centre of the image
Now an international team using NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory have detected the brightest flare yet observed from Sagittarius A*, which for an hour glowed some 150 times brighter than the black hole's usual luminosity. They say the brief burst of activity may offer a vital clue about how mature black holes behave. Joey Neilsen, postdoctoral associate at MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, told MITnews: 'We’re learning what black holes do when they’re old.  'They’re no young whippersnappers like quasars, but they’re still active, and how they’re active is an interesting question.'  As black holes swallow nearby matter, they emit light energy which allows astronomers to detect them. However, while the centres of newborn galaxies and quasars spew huge amounts of energy as they devour matter around them, older black holes tend to slow down as they age, consuming less and appearing fainter. 

While the popular idea of black holes is like a vacuum sucking up everything that drifts by, Frederick K. Baganoff, a research scientist explains that 'in this really low-accretion-rate state they’re really finicky eaters, and for some reason they actually blow away most of the energy.'  However, an analysis of Sagittarius A* made by Chandra' High Energy Transmission Gratings Spectrometer on February 9 showed a spike of 700 photons - 150 times brighter than its usual luminosity.  'Suddenly, for whatever reason, Sagittarius A* is eating a lot more,' said MIT Kavli research scientist Michael Nowak. 'One theory is that every so often, an asteroid gets close to the black hole, the black hole stretches and rips it to pieces, and eats the material and turns it into radiation, so you see these big flares.'  Dr Nowak told MITnews that he suspects such flare-ups occur more frequently than scientists had previously thought and the team have now reserved more than a month on Chandra to observe Sagittarius A* in the hopes of detecting more and finding out what is causing them.  Another question the team hopes to investigate is why the black hole gives off so little energy. Dr Baganoff in 2003 calculated that given the amount of gas surrounding it, Sagittarius A* should be a million times brighter.  His findings suggested that the black hole is actually throwing away most of the matter that floats into its gravitational pull - the physics of which remains a puzzle that could explain the history of our galaxy. - Daily Mail.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Magnitude 6.3 Quake Occurs Off Canada's Pacific Coast - No Damage Reported!

November 8, 2012 -  CANADA - A magnitude 6.3 earthquake has struck off the west coast of Canada but no damages have been reported and no tsunami warning has been issued.

Natural Resources Canada said the tremor occurred Wednesday night off Vancouver Island in the Pacific ocean, 85 miles (137 kilometers) southwest of Port Alice, British Columbia. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the quake was not expected to generate a tsunami.

A magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck off the west coast of Canada on Oct. 28, but there were no reports of major damage. Residents in some communities in British Columbia were evacuated, but the province escaped the biggest quake in Canada since 1949 unscathed. A 7.4-magnitude earthquake rocked Guatemala earlier Wednesday, killing at least 48 people in two provinces. - FOX News.

Each year, seismologists with the Geological Survey of Canada record and locate more than 1000 earthquakes in western Canada. The Pacific Coast is the most earthquake-prone region of Canada. In the offshore region to the west of Vancouver Island, more than 100 earthquakes of magnitude 5 or greater (large enough to cause damage had they been closer to land) have occurred during the past 70 years. Part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the concentration of earthquakes along the west coast is related to the presence of active faults, or breaks in the earth's crust. The surface of the earth is always changing, as the earth's crust is made up of "plates" (like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle) that are constantly moving relative to one another at speed's of about 2-10 cm/year (about how fast your fingernails grow). The plates can either slide past one another, or they can collide, or they can diverge (or move apart).

The west coast of Canada is one of the few areas in the world where all three of these types of plate movements take place, resulting in significant earthquake activity. Earthquakes in this region occur along the faults in the offshore region (e.g., the M=8.1 Queen Charlotte Island earthquake of 1949); within the subducting ocean plate (e.g., a magnitude 6.5 earthquake beneath downtown Seattle in 1965); and within the continental crust (e.g., a magnitude 7.3 earthquake on central Vancouver Island in 1946). Moving inland from the coast (and the active plate boundaries), the frequency and size of the earthquakes decreases. Saskatchewan and Manitoba are the least earthquake-prone areas in Canada. - Natural Resources Canada.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Monster Asteroid "Pinged" as it Buzzes Earth - NASA Radar Images Asteroid 2007 PA8!

November 8, 2012 - NASA - Scientists working with NASA's 230-foot-wide (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif., have obtained several radar images depicting near-Earth asteroid 2007 PA8. 

Over three days, Goldstone "pinged" a 1.6-kilometer (1-mile) wide asteroid that approached our planet from Oct. 28
to Oct. 30. The huge space rock, called 2007 PA8, was 9 million kilometers (5.6 million miles) from Earth on Oct. 30.
It made closest approach on Nov 5. (Monday), coming within 17 times the Earth-moon distance (4 million miles
or 6.5 million kilometers).
The images were generated from data collected at Goldstone on Oct. 28, 29 and 30, 2012.  The asteroid's distance from Earth on Oct. 28 was 6.5 million miles (10 million kilometers). The asteroid's distance to Earth was 5.6 million miles (9 million kilometers) on Oct. 30.  The perspective in the images is analogous to seeing the asteroid from above its north pole. Each of the three images is shown at the same scale.  The radar images of asteroid 2007 PA8 indicate that it is an elongated, irregularly shaped object approximately one mile (1.6 kilometers) wide, with ridges and perhaps craters. 

The data also indicate that 2007 PA8 rotates very slowly, roughly once every three to four days.  JPL scientists chose to image asteroid 2007 PA8 due to its size and relative proximity to Earth at the point of closest approach. On Nov. 5 at 8:42 a.m. PST (11:42 a.m. EST /16:42 UTC), the space rock was about four million miles (6.5 million kilometers) from Earth, or 17 times the distance between Earth and the moon.  The trajectory of asteroid 2007 PA8 is well understood. This flyby was the closest Earth approach by this asteroid for at least the next 200 years.  NASA detects, tracks and characterizes asteroids and comets passing close to Earth using both ground- and space-based telescopes.  The Near-Earth Object Observations Program, commonly called "Spaceguard," discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them, and plots their orbits to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet. - Space Daily.

EXTREME WEATHER: The Global Food Crisis - Drought Impact Expected to Hit United States Groceries in January!

November 8, 2012 - UNITED STATES - Look for higher prices at the grocery store as soon as January as the impact of this year’s record drought that slashed corn and soybean yields is felt by consumers.  Prices for corn and soybeans are higher than a year ago, with corn prices 23 percent higher and soybean prices 20 percent higher.

"These higher grain prices continue to put pressure on grain users, from ethanol plants to livestock farmers,"
says Dave Miller of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation. (Nikole Hanna/The Gazette).
The increase in corn prices will affect farmers’ feed prices for their livestock, and that will trickle down to consumers in the form of higher meat prices at the supermarket.  “These higher grain prices continue to put pressure on grain users, from ethanol plants to livestock farmers,” said Dave Miller, director of research and commodity services for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation in West Des Moines. “Whether you’re feeding your family or your livestock next year, you’ll feel a pinch in your pocketbook.  “In the past few weeks, ethanol production is running 12 percent below last year’s levels. Cattle, hog and poultry farmers are trimming back production expectations for the coming year.”  As farmers bring livestock to market sooner and at lighter weights, meat supplies are fairly strong. Miller warns that this will change at the beginning of the year.  “Lower production levels are expected to support beef and pork prices in 2013,” Miller said. “Consumers can expect higher meat prices in the coming year as livestock farmers continue to make adjustments due to the continued strength and increases in feed costs.”

While Iowa farmers sustained lower corn yields due to the drought, the state still leads the nation in corn production, according to Miller.  “The statewide corn yield is estimated to be 140 bushels per acre, down 32 bushels per acre in 2011,” he said.  Iowa farmers raised 1.9 billion bushels of corn this year, accounting for nearly 18 percent of U.S. corn production.  Iowa soybean fields weathered the drought better than expected. Iowa farmers are expected to harvest an estimated 399 million bushels of soybeans, representing 14 percent of the nation’s soybean production.  Soybean yields also were down from last year, estimated at 35.3 bushels per acre.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture will release its monthly crop production report on Friday. - The Gazette.